Adventures In the Bowels of Insurance Hell

Settle in. Relax. Do what I couldn’t for the better part of a month.

In a previous post I weighed in on the in’s and out’s of living with a chronic illness and what that can do to your desire to keep waking up in the morning. In short, it sucks. But with medication and patience you can make it through. I had been running short of the latter while working down the list of medications to try before coming to the one that finally worked: Uceris, an expensive (read: $2,000 roughly for 30-day supply without insurance) corticosteroid. It was a godsend, and I don’t even believe in god. No more waking up in the middle of the night, no more cutting short adventures in the park, no more planning my entire life (and I mean my entire life) around the location of the nearest restroom. I hadn’t felt that good in years, and, what’s more, I was riding out of that period of my life in style. I married my fiance; quit my shitty thankless job; moved out of my equally shitty hometown; and settled in for a good long bout of unemployment, in which I’d be solely pursuing the only thing that kept me alive until meeting my wife: my writing.

But, as with all good things, it came with a catch. Quitting my job meant getting on my wife’s insurance, which, on its face, seemed great. And it probably is great, if you don’t have a chronic condition. Low copays, if any at all, low deductible, excellent mental health coverage. The works. For me it has just meant a gap in coverage, a gap that can be and was taken advantage of. Insofar as I know, my condition is pre-existing. They can’t deny me coverage for it. But they can make it such a fucking hassle that I give up and stop trying.

I’m extremely lucky that I have substantial savings and thus the time and energy to jump through hoops or they might have gotten their wish. The last time I was working and experiencing an unrelenting flare, I could barely get out of bed and drag myself into the office. Anything more was out of the question. And so, with the help of my doctor and his amazing secretary (Anita, you’re wonderful), and my own insistent pestering of all parties remotely involved, I finally got my medication. But it’s the generic. And it’s only for 8 weeks, at the end of which I can only imagine we’ll have another battle to fight.

Oh, and what finally tipped the scales? A very short phone call between my doctor and the insurance company’s pharmacy team. We probably would have continued getting nowhere if Anita and I had kept dealing with the minimum wage call center employees who have no medical training and (from what I could gather) absolutely no guidelines for their own processes. The representatives I spoke with were working strictly from a piece of software, a kind of bastardized electronic medical records system. It would be laughable if it wasn’t so dangerous.

And that’s the insanity of it. Beyond insulin costing hundreds of dollars, a crime against humanity in its own right, even the lucky few who have insurance (even fewer, good insurance) cannot access the medications and services we need without jumping through arbitrary hoops and dead-ends. Our lives and good health depends on someone who responded to an ad in the local newspaper for a job answering phones. And no disrespect to them, they’re out here trying to earn a living just like the rest of us. My fight is with the CEO’s, the Boards of Directors, the Vice Presidents of Fucking You Over: the legions of bean-counting functionaries who are truly sociopathic aliens from another dimension. And every one of them the unimpeachable reason we need Medicare For All.

I could not give a single fuck what your political ideology is with regards to this debate. People are dying, people are being denied care, people who didn’t ask for cancer or diabetes or any number of unpreventable horrible illnesses. People who are born with a condition, people who contract one later in life that has laid dormant, people who take excellent care of themselves and still manage to suddenly have a defective liver. Today, I just needed a pill. But someone else might have needed an operation that could save their life, and was told to try 20 different other things until they died.

I might need that operation one day. I can tell you right now I don’t want to put my life in the hands of someone whose only job requirement is literacy and basic motor functions, someone receiving their directives from the offspring of moral defectives who think themselves bluebloods. Middle management goons on loan from the Devil.

So I’ll state it another way: unless you’re in that class of people who can afford to insulate themselves from the misery they author, in gated communities and master-planned cities, understand that a vote against Medicare For All or socialized medicine or whatever term comes to describe it in the next election cycle, is a vote for the ill health and death of those unfortunates who were born into the wrong social stratum.

Please ask yourself the next time you find yourself in a voting booth, at a town hall, watching this or that debate: Do you want our blood on your hands?

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